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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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05/20/2004 Archived Entry: "Trek book review: "Catalyst of Sorrows""



Catalyst of Sorrows
by Margaret Wander Bonanno
352 pages, $6.99
Published by Star Trek Books (Simon & Schuster)

Reviewed by Laurel Sutton

Disclosure: I wanted to review this book because Uhura is on the cover.

Plot Summary: Thereís a lethal virus spreading through the galaxy and Our Guys have to stop it and figure out who let it loose. Uhura (Admiral Uhura, no less! Whee!), Crusher, McCoy, Sisko, Tuvok, Selar, and a Romulan girl named Zetha save the day, and not too many people die. Koval did it to start trouble with the Federation.

You know, I just canít keep up with the Star Trek universe. Oh, Iím pretty good with canon up to about the third season of Voyager (had to stop watching due to the Berman/Braga ickiness factor; ditto Enterprise), and Iíve read my fair share of Trek books, but man! There is too much product out there! And so it was that I found myself reading this book with the Star Trek Chronology by my side, having to look up Trek references. Ouch. That Romulan guy named Tal? Yeah, I know who he is. Selar? She was in like one TNG episode but I remember her. But throw in Luther Sloan and Tomed and Heisenberg (no, not that one) and Khitomer and Iím out of my depth.

Last time I looked on Amazon, there were approximately 9,200 Trek books available, three thousand of those being published last year alone. And guess what? Most of them are pretty bad! What a surprise! The ones by Diane Carey are unreadable, and the ones by Peter David are really boring. But! With this book we see the return of Margaret Wander Bonanno, who is a wonderful writer and storyteller. She wrote some Trek books back in the late 1980s and a very funny SF book called Preternatual that at once made fun of Trek fandom and actors and also told a damn good alien contact story. This book is all her, and once you get used to the POV shifts and temporal jumps in the narrative, itís big fun. And no spelling mistakes! No grammar mistakes!

The gimmick in this book is so good that you forget itís a gimmick Ė bringing together three characters played by black actors. And itís so refreshing having women be the heroes, especially Uhura, who gets to be head of Starfleet Intelligence and knows everything thatís going on and basically kicks ass all over the place. I was really glad that none of the primary characters (like Kirk, Spock, or Picard) showed up in a cameo to hog all the glory and have it be All About Them.

These Lost Era books are a brilliant idea, since it allows characters from TOS, TNG, DS9, and VOY to interact, as long as you buy into the concept of very long human lifespans. Uhura is supposed to be over 100 years old and sheís still going strong; I seem to remember McCoy looking pretty desiccated in the TNG opener, which takes place 4 years after this book. (Still funny, though, needling Data about the way he talks: ďI donít see no pointed ears on you, boy.Ē)

I do have one plot gripe, though: part of the action takes place on a planet which has a cure-all remedy in the soil, and which only works when exposed to a ďrare elementĒ in the sun of said planet. Inhabitants of said planet donít like outworlders, so the Feds just go away and everybody forgets about it. Hello? A CURE-ALL and everyone forgets? Couldnít they just take the dirt up into orbit and cure people up there, in ships or on biospheres or something? I canít believe anyone, now or in the future, would let that opportunity slip away. Maybe there will be a novel featuring the Ferengi mini-empire based on exploiting this dirt.

Note: Wesley Crusher is in this book for about three paragraphs. And thatís a good thing.

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